Over the March 26-27 weekend first responders from around the County of Wetaskiwin including members from the Wetaskiwin Fire Department, Mulhurst Fire Department, South Pigeon Lake Fire Department, County of Wetaskiwin Fish and Wildlife and County Parks and Recreation officers, gathered at the South Pigeon Lake Fire Hall to take part in various ice rescue training scenarios.
County first responders trained in tandem with the underwater search and rescue team formally known as Central Alberta Rescue Dive Society (CARDS). This rescue dive team is called out by Alberta RCMP to aid in underwater recoveries all over the province.
Part of the collaborative training was to help bridge the communication between first responders such as the fire department who will be in charge on the scene that the divers attend.
“The biggest thing for us right now is to work in tandem,” says the dive team’s trainer, Paul Mcnaughton.
On the Saturday March 26, 2022, the dive team took to Pigeon Lake to practice ice dives while others practiced and set up scenarios at the two ponds beside the South Pigeon Lake Fire Hall.
Some training scenarios included learning the proper practices for removing an individual from the water who has fallen through the ice — including removal with and without equipment such as ropes and ladders.
Firefighter with the Mulhurst Fire Department, Travis Feldberg says the training is important because, “there’s always the thought where there is the real possibility where you get called to this.”
At the other pond firefighters and members of the dive team were cutting through the ice to sink a vehicle containing a dummy to the bottom of the pond. On Sunday March 27, 2022, the dive team and county first responders worked together on a realistic scenario to lift the car from the bottom of the pond and ‘rescue’ the dummy from the freezing water.
To do this the dive team went into the water and used underwater airbags which they placed underneath the vehicle and inflate to lift the vehicle to the surface. From there they would work with the firefighters to remove the vehicle from the water and recover the dummy.
This is the second year that the collaborative ice training has taken place with the dive team and county first responders.